Tag Archives: Ramadan

Khutba: “Your Willpower & Ramadan” by Taha Ghayyur (Al-Falah Islamic Centre)

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June 25, 2016 · 11:46 am

Ramadan & Media Relations: 18 Ways To Create Positive “Newsworthy” Stories


By Taha Ghayyur

“Media is all anti-Muslim.”

“We should boycott media because it’sthe source of Islamophobia.”

“No one is interested in our stories in corporate media!”

While these sentiments and generalizations are common in the Muslim community, dwelling on them and propagating them doesn’t help our cause.

Media bias and Islamomphobic rhetoric certainly exist. There is no denying of anti-Muslim agenda among some media outlets and journalists.

However, media personnel and journalists are humans like us. Engaging them positively with genuine human stories can turn things around.

Media in the US and Canada is constantly looking for original “newsworthy”  stories of peace loving Muslims living their faith in North America.

A key reason why our stories don’t get published or featured in the mainstream media is that we don’t know how to create and pitch stories that are “newsworthy”. Media is not interested in showcasing our theology or what morals our faith preaches! Nor does it care about covering an event or an occasion.

For media, the bottom line is ratings, which translate into dollars. The more original, human, and exciting your story, the higher your chance would be of getting the sound bites.

So, How Do We Create “Newsworthy” Stories?

As the public opinion about Islam and Muslims in the US and Canada plummets to record low, and Muslims witness a sharp increase in discrimination, Ramadan is a unique time to engage media.

Given the fact that Ramadan and Eid season is a good 4-5 week long “holiday season” for Muslims, it offers an excellent opportunity to portray Islam and Muslims in a positive light.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about the stories you conceive this Ramadan and Eid for productive media relations.

Your Story Should

  • Be more human than philosophical or preachy (Humanize Ramadan and Islam by featuring a story of a person, or family, or community)

  • Have a local connection (A local resident, business, Masjid, or community)

  • Be as unique and interesting as possible (First Ramadan of a convert, Iftar event at the  City Hall, a celebrity visiting a Masjid, or a Ramadan food drive)

  • Show significant numbers that your story impacts (The number people in the neighborhood or city who are fasting, or the number of people participating at an event)

  • Be ideally set against the backdrop of hate, terrorism, and Islamophobia (How will this Ramadan story help create a positive image about Islam and Muslims? How will this help make America or Canada better?)

  • Consider ways to connect with a local cause or hot social issue in the city that community cares about (#BlackLivesMatter, homelessness, or elections)

  • Consider involving or inviting a VIP or a celebrity to increase credibility of the story (Mayor, radio show host, sports personality, CEO of local food bank, or a local interfaith leader)

  • Focus on cultural dimensions of Ramadan and Eid (Diversity, multiculturalism, food, family, or community spirit)

17 Ideas for a Potential “Newsworthy” Story

  1. “First Ramadan in the Life of a Convert Muslim” (Invite media to cover the entire cycle from Suhoor to Taraweeh and contrast with his / her life before embracing Islam)

  2. “A Day in the Life of a Young Muslim in Ramadan” (Show how Ramadan disciplines and humanizes young Muslims in contrast with usual portrayal of Muslim youth being extremists….etc.)

  3. “Spirit of Giving” featuring a Muslim Entrepreneur (Showcase a generous donation by a Muslim business person to a social cause in Ramadan. Make it an annual tradition)

  4. “Invite Your Neighbor to Iftar” at a Masjid or at someone’s house.

  5. “Ramadan Cuisine” series, featuring a different cultural Iftar every day / week

  6. “Ramadan Food Drive” for a local food bank (Show Muslims collecting and delivering food)

  7. “Iftar with Our Homeless Neighbors” (Organize the largest city soup kitchen at Iftar time)

  8. “Stronger Family Campaign” in Ramadan (Do a media release and launch of the campaign, showcasing how Ramadan brings families together and strengthens these bonds)

  9. “Fasting Muslims for #BlackLivesMatter” Rally (Peaceful demonstration in support for African Americans or Canadians)

  10. “Multi-Masjid Open House” (Mass advertise in mainstream media a coordinated open house at several ‘public-friendly’ professionally run mosques in your city, featuring brief engaging lectures, mosque tours, cultural food, and giveaways)

  11. “Iftar or Eid Celebration” hosted by the Mayor, or Councillors, or a Congressperson / Member of Parliament

  12. “Eid for All Celebration” (invite public and media to enjoy and celebrate Eid day with the community, starting with Eid prayer)

  13. “Smile at Your Brother” Ramadan Campaign (Design flyers and posters with smiling Muslims promoting smiling and friendliness since it’s Ramadan. Make this campaign go viral on social media)

  14. “Live Simply, So Others Can Simply Live” Ramadan Campaign (Show how Muslims can live without food and water for 12-18 hours)

  15. “Healthy Eating” Ramadan Campaign

  16. “Green Ramadan” Campaign (Show how your local Masjid is making Iftars and Taraweeh environmentally friendly)

  17. “Experience the Melodious Quran Day” (Invite best Qaris / reciters of the Quran in the city to share their melodious voice and the beautiful message of the Quran with media and public. Accompany the event with a Quran exhibit)

  18. “Interfaith Fasting Day” (Engage Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and other faith leaders and groups to celebrate the fasting tradition among all faiths. End with a community Iftar)

Creating and pitching a “newsworthy” Ramadan story requires significant planning and legwork, but it’s all worth it.

Let the world see the beauty of your faith and culture. Let everyone experience it! What’s there to hide?

Source: www.SoundVision.com

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Khutba Ideas for Ramadan


By Taha Ghayyur

There is no spiritual institution in the world that captivates the minds and hearts of millions of people weekly the way that the Jumah prayer sermon does every Friday.

In Ramadan, in particular, a significantly larger crowd of Muslims throngs to mosques and Islamic centres to gain inspiration and spiritual boost from the Jumah Khutba or sermon.

Given the turbulent environment, where public opinion about Islam and Muslims is at record low and Islamophobia is skyrocketing, North American Muslims are in dire need of practical, genuine, and refreshing spiritual and social guidance from our Imams and Khateebs.

This Ramadan, it’s critical for Imams and Khateebs to focus their messaging on: Strengthening our spiritual connection with Allah; strengthening our family; and strengthening our connection with our friends, colleagues, and neighbors of other faiths.

As Ramadan approaches, here are suggested Khutba themes for Imams and Khateebs to address.

Khutba Themes for Weeks Leading Up To Ramadan

  • Willpower: How Ramadan Can Empower You to Change Bad Habits

  • Reaching Out: Opening Doors & Hearts to Our Neighbors this Ramadan

  • Ramadan & Civic Engagement: Our Responsibility Toward Our Country

  • Ramadan Prep: Are You Ramadan Ready?

Khutba Themes During Ramadan

  • Reconnect with the Quran: Let Allah Speak to You

  • Fasting & Feasting: How to Observe an Active & Healthy Ramadan

  • Ramadan & Islamophobia: Opportunity to Humanize Islam and Muslims

  • Reconnect with Family: Strengthen Bonds that Matter this Ramadan

  • Needy in My Neighborhood: Leading a Simpler & Generous Ramadan

  • Ramadan & Young Muslims: Why You Matter to the Muslim Community

  • Dua: How Do You Talk to Allah?

  • Tawbah: Coming Clean with Allah

  • Final Stretch: How to Make the Last 10 Days & Nights Most Productive?

Khutba Themes for Weeks of Eid & Beyond

  • Eid: A New Beginning for a New You

  • Eid: A Time for Hope & Renewal

  • It’s Over: How to Make Those Great Ramadan Habits Stick

  • How to Keep Young Muslims Engaged in the Masjid & the Community

  • Muslim Civic Participation: How Muslims Can Make a Difference

A thoughtful and thorough planning of Khutbas in advance will multiply the benefit for millions of Muslims who lend their ears, minds, and hearts for 30-45 minutes every week, especially during the Ramadan and Eid seasons.

Source: www.SoundVision.com

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Interview- Pray Now or Pray Later (Toronto Star Story- Aug. 2009)

Muslim communities across the GTA are preparing to start the holy month of fasting and prayer. But is it tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday? Well-meaning strides in science have only deepened the gulf between theories on when the lunar month truly begins.

Published On Thu Aug 20 2009
Noor Javed, Staff Reporter

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, which starts this weekend.

It’s from simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

“It’s a not an easy question to answer,” said Taha Ghayyur, coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims.com, which attempts to sort out the details for the community.

“This year, it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday … and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday,” he said.

Traditionally, some Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan – the month the Qur’an was revealed – for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins.

Another group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting at the same time as Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that forms legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.

It ended up doing the opposite.

“It has added to the confusion,” said Ghayyur. “Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way.”

Many in the community say that within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate, one between those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast to tradition.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle over a period of 12 months, with each month lasting 29 or 30 days. The length of the month can only be determined when the new moon is born, and according to some, when it is first seen, or when science determines it has appeared.

In 2006, the Fiqh Council and numerous scholars decided that scientific calculations were an Islamically valid method of predicting a moon sighting.

The decision was made with the hope that predetermining the day for Ramadan and for Eid, the holiday marking the end of the month, would make it easier for Muslims to plan ahead, and eventually use the consensus to leverage governments for a statutory holiday.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

“I think people have just agreed to disagree,” said Ahmed Kutty, the imam at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, which follows the Fiqh Council decision.

The group calculated weeks ago that Ramadan will begin Saturday.

The strides toward science sparked outrage from groups who felt this new, scientific method was challenging a tradition that had been around for more than 1,400 years.

“We follow the tradition of the Prophet in that we sight the moon to declare the first of the month, this is the way it has always been done,” said Yunus Pandor, a coordinator with the Hilal Committee of Metropolitan Toronto and Vicinity.

The group, made up of more than 75 local mosques, both Sunni and Shia, will gather tomorrow night at a local mosque to determine whether the first day of Ramadan is Saturday or Sunday.

They will look for the moon locally, and also get reports of moon sighting from the local boundaries, stretching west to Chicago, and south to the Caribbean.

Pandor said tomorrow’s local forecast is cloudy.

The group doesn’t completely discount astronomical calculations either, he said. “We use astronomical calculation as a support, but not as a means, to decide.

“We have to see the moon.”

Acceptance of the new method came only after years of internal debates, arguments and theological discussions.

For some, it has even meant division within their family.

“One year, my parents and I started fasting on different days,” said Mississauga resident Yaseen Poonah. “But I realized that it wasn’t the same enjoyment in the month.”

That is how most people end up deciding, said Poonah. They either seek consensus with their family or friends, or go with what their local mosque is doing.

Or they just hope that despite the differing opinions, Ramadan still ends up starting on the same day.

“There is always a chance that the moon will be seen Friday,” said Poonah. “That way almost everyone will start Saturday.”

Original Story Publish on TorontoStar.com
© Copyright Toronto Star

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Are You Ready for CHANGE this Ramadan?

16 Proven Techniques to Help You Kick Bad Habits

“Change” is the vogue today. “Change” is being chanted by the presidential candidates to rally up public support; “Change” is being demanded by the masses suffering due to skyrocketing fuel and commodity prices; “Change”, a drastic one indeed, is what we are witnessing with awe in the global weather patterns.

For Muslims, Ramadan is the prime time for change. This intense, one-month boot camp dramatically alters our routines and schedules. From tight sleep schedules, to starvation for extended hours, to reduction in consumption of junk foods, to a technology diet, to withdrawal from caffeine addiction, to lengthy standing in Taraweeh prayers at night, to extensive listening to the Quran. What a change indeed!

Beyond Routines and Rituals

The real change, however, Ramadan demands of us is the internal change – a change that positively transforms our lifestyle, character, attitudes, conversations, and habits. Allah has described this change in the month of Ramadan as follows: “so you may exercise self-restraint (Taqwa)” [Quran 2:183].

Slavery to Ramadan?

If our change is limited to outer physical practices only, we become slaves to Ramadan, instead of being servants to Ar-Rahman (Allah, the Merciful).

Prophet Muhammad has warned us about those who don’t fast from bad behaviour:

“Allah has no interest in any person’s abstention from eating and drinking, if that person does not give up lying and dishonest actions” [Sahih al-Bukhari].

Ramadan Resolutions

Every Ramadan we make resolutions and tell ourselves: “This Ramadan will be different. I’m going to change my ______ habit.” “I will give up ………”, “I will take my practice of Islam to the next level”. But how many of us are really able to follow through? Plenty of good intentions, many amazing wishes, but sadly enough, life goes on as usual the morning of Eid.

Ask yourself, how is my fasting benefiting my spiritual connection with Allah? How is my extensive worship in Ramadan helping me discipline my tongue (taste and speech), eyes, ears, and habits?

Are you ready to take that first step to transform your bad habits into good ones?

16 Ways to Kick Bad Habits

Few things are more demanding than eliminating bad habits, since they are part of our daily routines and personality. It takes days of patience and practice to break old habits.

However, the good news is, Ramadan offers a perfect and natural environment for moral training. Interestingly, researches from “positive psychology” (scientific study of successful people) have repeatedly shown it takes 30 days to kick a bad habit and develop a new one.

In addition to the physical discipline in the 30-day boot camp of Ramadan, the increased spiritual exercise and connection with Allah, can transform your habits for life.

Try these proven techniques for a successful positive change in your habits (during Ramadan and beyond!):

1. Acknowledge and identify your bad habits: First step is to admit you need to change. If you are in a state of denial, you won’t recognize that you have a bad habit to change.

2. Pick a habit for 30 days: Prioritize your bad habits and focus on one for 30 days. Take a 30-day trial to re-condition your habits. If you are committed to changing at least one habit, you will see remarkable results, God-willing.

3. Realize that it’s in us to change: Don’t believe the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” You can break a bad habit if you really want to. No one else can change your habits, if you don’t want to.

4. Remember, Allah loves those who commit mistakes and repent: Prophet Muhammad said:

“By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them.” [Sahih Muslim]

5. Intention & plan to change: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A healthy process of change in character requires a gradual pace, which entails planning. Develop concrete milestones to measure your progress.

6. Replace a bad habit with a good one: Completely eliminating a habit is more challenging than replacing it with a more productive habit. Moreover, it’s crucial to replace the lost natural needs, such as the need to socialize and to be entertained with something healthy.

For instance, it’s easier to replace or balance your addiction to TV with a physical workout or reading, than to suddenly remove the TV from your life. Interestingly, Prophet Muhammad, the greatest ‘psychologist’ of humanity, illustrated this principle in these words:

“Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up an evil deed with a good one which will wipe (the former) out, and behave good-naturedly towards people.” [At-Tirmidhi]

7. Change your environment: Resist the negative peer pressure by finding a better company of friends. Collective action to change is very powerful. Prophet Muhammad explained this peer pressure effect with this analogy:

“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.” [Sahih al-Bukhari & Muslim]

8. Exercise (physical and spiritual): A habit of regular physical exercise is obviously important for lasting weight loss. But you may not realize that exercise helps in eliminating a number of bad habits. For example, among smokers who become competitive runners, for example, over 80% give up smoking.

Moreover, exercising your will power (struggle to fight temptations) for 30 days helps you kick all kinds of bad habits and form new good ones. Willpower is like a muscle; the more you exercise it, the more you strengthen it.

9. Think of yourself as a changed, different, new person: This simple psychological shift in your thinking about your own image can do wonders. Tell yourself, “I can’t continue this ill-behaviour. I am better than that. I am stronger. I am wiser.”

10. Reward success: The most fundamental law in all of psychology is the “law of effect.” It simply states that actions followed by rewards are strengthened and likely to recur. Unfortunately, studies show that people rarely use this technique when trying to change personal habits.

Setting up formal or informal rewards for success greatly increases your chances of transforming bad habits into good ones, and is far more effective than punishing yourself for bad habits or setbacks. As Muslims we should also remember that the ultimate reward is Allah’s Pleasure and Paradise in the Hereafter.

11. Schedule / limit your bad habits: If you are really struggling to kick a bad habit, try limiting the habit to a specific time and place. Research and case studies confirm that this rather unconventional approach can be a useful first step in changing bad habits or learning new good ones.

12. Tell someone about your effort to change if it helps: He or she may keep you on track.

13. Resolve to continue on and follow up: Giving up bad habits or learning good habits requires regular maintenance and determination. It is a long, ongoing process, also known as “Tazkiyyah” in Islamic terminology. It’s more difficult than the first few steps of change. (“How many times have I dieted, for example, only to gain the weight back?”)

14. Remind yourself of death and hereafter often: “Remember often the terminator (or destroyer) of all the pleasures [i.e. death],” the Prophet once stated. [At-Tirmidhi.]

15. Develop a relapse strategy: How do you ensure not to return to your bad habit you are trying to change? Some people donate money to a good cause every time they return to sinning or a bad habit. This reminds them of the ‘cost’ of going back to old bad habits. Others try physically demanding acts to deter them from reverting to old ways.

16. Ask Allah for help: Last but not least, make Asking for Allah’s Help an integral part of the overall change process. Ask for Allah’s Help before, during and after every attempt at kicking a bad habit. Do so sincerely, even begging and crying, like a child does when he or she really wants something. Allah is Ever-Willing to Help and to Respond to our needs, but it is us who must take the first step towards Him.

“And whosoever is conscious of Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He (Allah) will make a way for him to get out (from) every (difficulty), and He will provide him from (sources) he could never imagine.” [Quran 65:2-3]

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